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robertogreco : katrina   7

BOMB Magazine — Rebecca Solnit by Astra Taylor
"AT One of the most interesting ideas in the book is the concept of “elite panic”—the way that elites, during disasters and their aftermath, imagine that the public is not only in danger but also a source of danger. You show in case after case how elites respond in destructive ways, from withholding essential information, to blocking citizen relief efforts, to protecting property instead of people. As you write in the book, “there are grounds for fear of a coherent insurgent public, not just an overwrought, savage one.”

RS The term “elite panic” was coined by Caron Chess and Lee Clarke of Rutgers. From the beginning of the field in the 1950s to the present, the major sociologists of disaster—Charles Fritz, Enrico Quarantelli, Kathleen Tierney, and Lee Clarke—proceeding in the most cautious, methodical, and clearly attempting-to-be-politically-neutral way of social scientists, arrived via their research at this enormous confidence in human nature and deep critique of institutional authority. It’s quite remarkable.

Elites tend to believe in a venal, selfish, and essentially monstrous version of human nature, which I sometimes think is their own human nature. I mean, people don’t become incredibly wealthy and powerful by being angelic, necessarily. They believe that only their power keeps the rest of us in line and that when it somehow shrinks away, our seething violence will rise to the surface—that was very clear in Katrina. Timothy Garton Ash and Maureen Dowd and all these other people immediately jumped on the bandwagon and started writing commentaries based on the assumption that the rumors of mass violence during Katrina were true. A lot of people have never understood that the rumors were dispelled and that those things didn’t actually happen; it’s tragic.

But there’s also an elite fear—going back to the 19th century—that there will be urban insurrection. It’s a valid fear. I see these moments of crisis as moments of popular power and positive social change. The major example in my book is Mexico City, where the ’85 earthquake prompted public disaffection with the one-party system and, therefore, the rebirth of civil society.

AT So on the one hand there are people responding in these moments of crisis and organizing themselves, helping each other, and, on the other, there are power elites, who sometimes, though not always, sabotage grassroots efforts because, as you say at one point, the very existence of such efforts is taken to represent the failure of authorities to rise to the occasion—it’s better to quash such efforts than to appear incompetent. The way you explore the various motivations of the official power structure for sabotaging people’s attempts to self-organize was a very interesting element of the book.

RS You are an anarchist, aren’t you?

AT Maybe deep down. (laughter)

RS Not all authorities respond the same way. But you can see what you’re talking about happening right after the 1906 earthquake. San Franciscans formed these community street kitchens. You weren’t allowed to have a fire indoors because the risk of setting your house, and thereby your neighborhood, on fire was too great—if you had a house, that is. People responded with enormous humor and resourcefulness by creating these kitchens to feed the neighborhood. Butchers, dairymen, bakers, etcetera were giving away food for free. It was like a Paris Commune dream of a mutual-aid society. At a certain point, authorities decided that these kitchens would encourage freeloading and became obsessed with the fear that people would double dip. So they set up this kind of ration system and turned a horizontal model of mutual aid—where I’m helping you but you’re helping me—into a vertical model of charity where I have and you lack and I am giving to you. Common Ground, the radical organization for community rebuilding, 100 years later in New Orleans chooses as its motto: “Solidarity not charity.”

AT The charity model fits hand in hand with the “we need a paternal, powerful authority figure in a time of crisis” mindset that your book refutes. Do you think people need to be led?

RS Part of the stereotypical image is that we’re either wolves or we’re sheep. We’re either devouring babies raw and tearing up grandmothers with our bare hands, or we’re helpless and we panic and mill around like idiots in need of Charlton Heston men in uniforms with badges to lead us. I think we’re neither, and the evidence bears that out."



"RS I started that book when I was almost 30. The Nevada Test Site was the place that taught me how to write. Until then I had been writing in three different ways: I had been writing as an art critic, in a very objective, authoritative voice; I had been writing as an environmental journalist, also with objectivity; and then I had also been writing these very lapidary essays on the side. It felt like three different selves, three different voices, and explaining the test site and all the forces converging there demanded that I use all those voices at once. So as to include everything relevant, it also demanded I write in a way both meandering and inclusive. A linear narrative is often like a highway bulldozed through the landscape, and I wanted to create something more like a path that didn’t bulldoze and allowed for scenic detours.

My training as an art critic was a wonderful background because it taught me to think critically about representations and meanings, and that applied really well to national parks and atomic bombs and Indian Wars. It was great to realize that I didn’t have to keep these tools in museums and galleries—it was a tool kit that could go anywhere. Also, I was trained as a journalist. A journalist can become an adequate expert pretty quickly and handle the material, whereas a lot of scholars dedicate their life to one subject."
rebeccasolnit  atrataylor  elites  elitism  humans  humannature  power  2009  insurrection  resistance  caronchess  leeclarke  charlesfritz  enricoquarantelli  kathleentierney  timothygartonash  maureendowd  fear  neworleans  katrina  disasters  solidarity  grassroots  activism  charity  authoruty  patriarchy  control  writing  howwewrite  nola 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Fixing the Broken Parts: Can Schools Save New Orleans? - Cities - GOOD
"New Orleans's unprecedented building boom has schools as its centerpiece. With new construction—and new ways of teaching—revolutionizing education in the blighted city, one big question remains: Can a city be remade through its schools?"
neworleans  nola  schools  reconstruction  education  policy  schooldesign  recoveryschooldistric  katrina  learning  fema  rebuilding  ramseygreen  opsd  community  children  communities  money  collectivebargaining  corruption  charterschools 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Getting It Right: What Is Brad Pitt Really Doing for New Orleans? - Cities - GOOD
"When Brad Pitt showed up to help fix New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward, it raised hope—and eyebrows. Is his high-design, low-income green housing project what the neighborhood needs? GOOD investigates."
architecture  green  community  neworleans  williammcdonough  katrina  reconstruction  leed  ninthward  makeitright  design  housing  homes  nola 
april 2011 by robertogreco
GOOD: The New Orleans Issue
"“Since Katrina.” You’ll be reading those words a lot in this issue. But they aren’t meant to inspire pity or a sense of mourning. Instead, they should serve as a reminder of the rebirth that New Orleans has experienced in the five years since the storm.

Out of unimaginable tragedy, New Orleanians — with characteristic tenacity — found opportunity. A truly impressive group of people, businesses, and organizations has been hard at work rebuilding, respecting, and preserving history and tradition while taking advantage of the possibility and freedom afforded by working in a city starting over.

This issue is a salute to all the people — long-time residents and recent transplants — who have worked tirelessly to remake New Orleans and preserve the magic of this enduring icon of a city. With the oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill just reaching shore, their road to recovery just got longer. But if the past five years are any indication, the city will always rise again."
neworleans  katrina  2010  good  goodmagazine  nola 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Make It Right Gets Made - Dwell Blog - dwell.com
"The feel-good story: The first six houses funded by Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation have been completed in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. They include homes designed by New Orleans architectural firms Billes Architecture and Concordia; plus KieranTimberlake of Philadelphia, and a couple of prefabs by Los Angeles-based Graft. Soon to come are the balance of Pitt's all-star lineup, including Adjaye Associates, Morphosis, MVRDV, Pugh + Scarpa, and Shigeru Ban."

[See also: http://archrecord.construction.com/news/daily/archives/071210Pitt.asp AND http://archrecord.construction.com/news/daily/archives/081211PittHouses.asp ]
homes  housing  neworleans  affordability  morphosis  davidadjaye  shigeruban  mvrdv  pugh+scarpa  eskewdumexripple  trahanarchitects  bnim  constructs  graft  kierantimberlake  concordia  billesarchitects  architecture  design  braddpitt  philanthropy  katrina  makeitright  nola 
january 2009 by robertogreco
Tours and Detours: Walking the Ninth Ward - Triple Canopy
"A self-guided tour through the built and natural environment of the Ninth Ward."
ninthward  neworleans  tours  psychogeography  katrina  post-katrina  nola 
november 2008 by robertogreco
3quarksdaily - monday musing: hurricane
"The amazing thing about Matta-Clark's work was the way that it instantly transformed the most intimate spaces into places that feel like ruins, archeological."
art  cities  photography  architecture  katrina  matta-clark  neworleans  nola  gordonmatta-clark 
january 2007 by robertogreco

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